Commentary from Roy Speckhardt, AHA Executive Director
After two decades serving the American Humanist Association—fifteen of those years as Executive Director—I’ve decided the time is ripe for me to begin a new chapter, and for the AHA to bring in the fresh ideas and energy that come with new leadership.
When I first joined the AHA staff after having become a member and personally identifying as a humanist years prior, I knew I was joining a movement that had the potential to influence millions of people.
Looking back, I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know over the years of my service. Our members, be they consistent supporters, local activists, organizational leaders, or celebrity awardees, are all so remarkably inquisitive, direct, and insightful in ways that are uniquely humanist. Through my position I’ve had the opportunity to get to know members of Congress, the media, and colleagues who are leaders in our many adjacent causes. And our staff over the years always demonstrated their high competency and drive to accomplish so much under the banner of humanism.
There are far too many examples of this organization’s effectiveness to list, which couldn’t have happened without the terrific work of staff. Just in the past year in the midst of the pandemic we saw: Development Director Nicole Carr speedily change plans from our in-person conference to a virtual one that attracted more than double the participants of any previous AHA event, Legal Director Monica Miller secure a critical victory over school-sponsored prayers in a challenging legal environment, Policy and Social Justice Director Rachel Deitch usher the first passage of legislation we helped compose and for which we lead the drive, and Education Director Kristin Wintermute muster resources during this pandemic to provide many times more virtual webinars than previously offered, including lectures and other content so our efforts to educate and support our members and the public could continue unabated.
During this time, the AHA Board of Directors engaged in an ongoing process of learning and transformation to develop the internal culture and external strategies needed to make the AHA an antiracist, justice-oriented institution that can support not only the advancement of humanists and other nontheists, but also the needed change our values compel us to be engaged in.
Today, the organization is extremely well positioned to continue to act as an agent for humanistic change. While we tightened our belts during the pandemic and focused our resources on our most impactful work, our financial position is better now than ever, and with the board’s innovative new strategic plan in place, you can be assured that your investment in the AHA is among the most efficient, effective ways you can make a positive difference in this world.
As you may have seen announced, the AHA board appointed a diverse hiring committee that emphasizes our core humanist values, which is chaired by AHA President Sunil Panikkath and includes AHA Development Director Nicole Carr, trans-religious scholar and Council member of the Latinx Humanist Alliance Anthony Cruz, AHA Treasurer John Hooper, past board member and Institute for Humanist Studies Director Anthony Pinn, and longtime AHA supporter and humanist activist Sue Reamer. They interviewed multiple firms and hired the Professionals for Nonprofits team led by Brandi DeSousa to perform the search, which is now well underway.
As I write this, I anticipate being in my position for months to come as I seek a new role elsewhere. When my last day on staff arrives, I’ll remain involved as chair of the AHA board’s new Advancement Committee, seeking to ensure the continued growth and success of this invaluable organization. I will also do all I can to help the new Executive Director get acclimated and see that the transition is a smooth one.
It has been one of my greatest joys and honors to be your Executive Director. Thank you all for your dedicated stewardship of our highest humanist ideals!